Q: I worked for a boss I was very close to for more than a decade. Now I've taken another job (with her support) at another company. Suddenly, our relationship seems...

Share story

Q: I worked for a boss I was very close to for more than a decade. Now I’ve taken another job (with her support) at another company. Suddenly, our relationship seems chilly. I thought we were friends, so I’m brokenhearted. How should I proceed?


A: Mixing friendship and work is tricky business. You have to decide which is more important: the friendship or your business relationship.


If your current company counts on your ex-boss’s good opinion, then the best path is to acknowledge your hurt feelings privately and do what’s best for your company publicly.


A general apology can go a long way toward mending professional fences. Most people find it’s balm for a soul that hears more excuses than accountability.


Say something to your former boss such as, “I regret if I’ve done something to make you uncomfortable. I’m grateful for your support and want to work together well even though I’m no longer at the same company.”


If your friendship is the priority and your ex-boss being upset would not hurt your current job, then ask her out for coffee.


Be aware, people have many emotional reasons for changing their behavior toward someone. Everyone’s inner world is a complicated place full of residue from early relationships with family and friends. When unresolved fear, anger or grief is triggered by a current relationship, most people really don’t know the reasons for their feelings. If you press them, they’ll end up saying things that sound silly or make no sense.


The feelings your old boss has may be confusing even to her, and she probably won’t be able to explain her changed reaction to you.


When you have coffee with your her, use a simple opening like, “I realize my new job profoundly changes our relationship. Is there anything that would be helpful to you that I’m not doing, or anything I’m doing that isn’t working?”


Then listen lots, talk little.


If you suspect your boss’s reaction is complicated, drop your questions. You can’t fix what you didn’t break (baggage from old attachments).


If her reaction is based on something simple, she’ll tell you, you can fix it, and you won’t be brokenhearted anymore.


Q: I once had a sexual relationship with a woman who manages a department I’d like to work in. Would it be a bad idea to apply?


A: Yes.


Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube